2022 candidate for City of Mitcham.
Heritage survey responses.
Do you think that Councils and community members need to have a greater voice in planning and development decisions affecting their local area?
Yes. The new planning system has seriously restricted the ability for council to implement long-term plans for development and growth that can also guarantee the retention of local character.
What role should Councils play in protecting local heritage places from demolition or inappropriate development?
It is my understanding that the new planning code prevents the potential for local heritage places to be demolished without requiring development approval from council. I understand that this has been a point of contention with the introduction of the new planning code. For Mitcham, the new planning code introduced a number of errors relating to the listing and details of many different local heritage places. This is quite concerning and raises the question of how many other heritage places might have been missed.
How would you seek to improve protections for heritage places in your area?
1. Make sure that Council's planning department has assessed each local and state heritage place to make sure that it is correctly detailed in the new Planning Code. 2. Interstate, protections for vegetation / trees on the property of the heritage place are also protected. This is not the case in South Australia (unless the tree is a Regulated Tree). This should be considered as in many situations, the vegetation / trees on the property contribute immense value to the heritage value. 3. Areas with a "Character Area" overlay should have demolition controls applied.
We rarely see new places added to local heritage listings. Why do you think this is?
The State Government has been reluctant to add new local heritage listings. The threshold for a 'local' heritage listing is quite high and this is problematic due to the removal of 'contributory' places in the new planning code. Local heritage listings are a great way of retaining buildings, places and trees which will connect an area to its past. They also provide a fantastic way to educate people and provide tourism opportunities in some situations.
How has the Planning and Design Code impacted on the heritage, amenity, and environment of your area? What changes would you seek to the Code?
There is quite a lot that needs to improve here. Some of it is inside the code and other aspects of it are outside. Two key points though for my local area: 1. Better protection for trees - They form the character of the local area 2. Returning the "Character Statements" for each area in the planning code. Decades of refinement was lost in the transition over to the planning code in this area. These 3-4 paragraphs at the beginning of each zone were of critical importance for preventing inappropriate development in the local area and retaining existing development patterns. 3. Areas with a "Character Area" overlay should have demolition controls applied.
What are the impacts of infill development in your area? What changes would you seek in the rules around infill development?
There is a lot to be improved in this area. However, most of the main issues with infill aren't as applicable in Park Ward as they are say in Lower Mitcham. We need to stop looking at infill development on a block-by-block basis. This isn't anyway to plan and is creating immense issues around parking, loss of trees, open space and character. Urban infill should not be occurring in 'high' bushfire risk areas. There needs to be a much larger focus on human-scale development with a long-term view to retaining open space while increasing population densities.
Construction of new housing typically uses 30% labour and 70% materials. Renovation of existing housing stock typically uses 70% labour and 30% materials. What policy changes would you like to see made to encourage people to renovate, rather than demolish and build anew?
This is a really interesting question and not an area that I have extensive knowledge of. I think there needs to be an understanding of why people want to demolish existing houses and rebuild rather than renovate. There needs to be much better public education around how homeowners can retrofit and improve their existing house to make it more energy efficient. Improving heating / cooling through encouraging the take-up of better insulation, double glazing etc. The second way would be to make the dumping of demolition materials significantly more expensive. I don't see this being under the jurisdictions of councils though. A carrot and stick approach would be needed though to make it significantly more attractive to renovate than detonate.
How should the community be informed and involved in decisions about new developments?
The public notification system under the new planning code is a significant improvement, as it allows for anyone to make a comment / submission on it rather than just local neighbours. There are two things that need to be improved though: 1. The triggers for public notification - It is amazing what manages to go through planning approvals without triggering public notification. E.g. Two story dwellings use to automatically trigger notification but don't anymore. 2. Information in the development application on what triggered the public notification. This is not given out anywhere and so while residents might make a submission say on the loss of vegetation, that isn't relevant - the length of the boundary wall being over X metres long is.
Do you think there is adequate tree canopy across your local government area?
Yes and No. Park Ward has amazing levels of tree canopy cover, I'd doubt that any local government ward has higher levels. No in terms of the fact that it is being lost at a grate rate! In 2011 (before the tree laws changed) Glenalta had 94 hectares worth of tree canopy. As of last year, it has 55 hectares.
How would you like to see significant and regulated trees in your area protected from removal?
I've recently written a list of the top 10 areas that need improvement when it comes to regulated and significant trees for Conservation SA. Below are the applicable parts for Park Ward: 1. Remove exemptions from existing Regulated / Significant Tree Protections and Native Vegetation Regulations a. 20m Rule – Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act Regulations covering Regulated and Significant Tree Protections c. 10m and 5m fence Rules – Native Vegetation Act Regulations 2. Bring SA into line with VIC and NSW by changing definition of regulated tree to one that: a. has a trunk circumference of 50cm or more measured 1m above the ground or b. has a height of 6m or more or c. has canopy over 9sqm 3. Incorporate Vegetation Overlays into the Planning and Design Code, similar to those used in Victoria, to better reflect the expectations of local communities by allowing for the protection of significant urban vegetation 4. Implement new bushfire clearance allowances that reflect the Bushfire Attack Level rating for the property 5. Remove the ability to prune up to 30% of a regulated / significant tree without requiring council approval and implement a system that requires the use of the AS4373 Standard 6. Increase the use of arborists to assess applications affecting significant trees and allow for streamlined approval process for applications to remove regulated trees 9. Introduce the following requirements where permission is granted to remove a protected tree: a. Homeowners to replant or make a financial contribution for the loss of that tree at a set rate significantly higher than currently set b. Developers to replant and make a financial contribution which will depend on the size and location of the tree they are seeking to remove 10. The removal of protected trees should not be allowed until all relevant planning and development approvals have been granted
What involvement should Councils have in decisions about protecting or removing significant and regulated trees?
South Australia is the only state where the protection of trees and vegetation is not delegated to local councils to decide. To fix this, Vegetation Overlays should be incorporated into the Planning and Design Code, similar to those used in Victoria. This would allow councils to set protections that better reflect the expectations of local communities by allowing for the protection of significant urban vegetation. Essentially, the State Government would set a base level of protections. If the local council wanted to go further and was willing to resource this, they could then do this via a code amendment process.
What actions would you advocate to slow or mitigate the impacts of climate change in your local government area?
Retaining the trees! Really isn't that hard. Mitcham Council also does excellent work with Water Sensitive Urban Design. I would be keen on making sure this continues. We also need to continue to look at better ways to improve bushfire mitigation and education in the local area. Mitcham Councils' Solar City Initiative has also been well received during my door-knocking.
What issues are there with traffic and parking in your area?
Lots. Recent development in the local area has added considerable strain to a road network that fundamentally was not designed for it. Many streets in the local area are relatively narrow, causing issues with parking and lines of sight.
How could transport options be improved in your area?
More regular bus and train services. For the train, an express service to the city would be excellent. All public transport is the responsibility of the State Government though. At a council level, Mitcham needs to do a much better job at creating walkable suburbs and improving biking infrastructure. I'd like to establish a Biking Accessibility Plan for the Mitcham Hills to prevent more hotchpotch spending and start joining the dots between existing trails and paths with an aim of making it safer for cyclists to ride (encouraging more people) and safer for drivers to operate. I believe footpaths are an important means of connecting our community. For many people, they are critical to being able to get around our local area. If elected to council I would push strongly for an overall footpath plan in the hills to prioritise areas in need. Not every street needs a footpath, but with a proper plan I believe we can connect the area sufficiently enough to provide easy walking access for everyone. For those who do have footpaths nearby their house, it is quite clear from talking to many local residents that maintenance of them is a big issue. Keeping footpaths and laneways clean from leaf and other debris and not having pavers that have been pushed up by tree roots is really important to making sure you can actually walk safely on them.
What would your top three priorities be for improving planning policy and outcomes in your local government area?
Better protection for trees and vegetation
Allowing for 'Character Statements' to be added across areas, similar to how the Technical and Numerical Variations operate currently
Reintroducing the 'Contributory' category of heritage items